Sunday, February 27, 2005

On Email Rants and Russian Links

I received about fifty emails about my article in the first week since its been out. Most have been very supportive, but I been on the receiving end of a couple rants too. I am a serial email ranter, and now I know how it feels. Ouch.

Oh well, I'm not gonna stop. But, maybe I'll tone it down some.

Also, I found my blog linked to a Russian language site out of Connecticut. Can anyone explain to me what that's all about?

Friday, February 25, 2005

More Shamless Self-Promotion

I did a short interview this morning with CBS news radio about my article. It will air at different times throughout so I'm not sure on times, but I'll post a link when it hits the web. Hopefully, I don't sound like a dumbass.

Thanks for everyone for reading the article, and all you positive feedback. I promise that I'll be a little less giddy when I publish my next article. (If I ever publish another one LOL). Of course all bets are off if I ever get my novel published. You'll have to endure my gidiness for a long time if that happens.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Spooky Article

Alaska, Land of the Lost

By Tomas Alex Tizon Times Staff Writer
STERLING, Alaska — She does it without even thinking, as soon as she steps out of the truck: a sweep of her eyes across the sky for a sign of bald eagles. They're as common here as ravens, as hawks, but they're bigger and easier to see from a distance. Maybe a single circling eagle will spiral down to the spot where lies her son — or his body, whatever is left of it.


This article isn't my normal subject matter, but I enjoyed it. Well written and haunting. Reason #57 not to move to Alaska. Texas may be hot, but you'd have to really work at getting lost in the woods.

Battle Blogs

If you haven't read this article in the New Yorker, you ought to. Its a good look at some guys who sua sponte created something that has proven to be one of the best tools for junior officers in the Army. These guys just thought it up and did it.

This is the future of the Army.

***Note: I disagree with the article's assement of the viability of CALL.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Good News Out of Qatar

Another revolution in the land of Al-Jazeera
Qatar, sinking billions into reform, introduces new debates

By Preston Mendenhall
NBC News

DOHA, Qatar - In the land that launched Al-Jazeera TV, there's another revolution under way. This time, they call it The Doha Debates, a monthly forum tackling issues at the heart of troubles in the turbulent Middle East.

Held in Oxford Union format, the debates pull no punches. No topic is off-limits. And there's no interference from the government in a region where free speech is a rarity.

The first two debates addressed Arab governments' aversion to reform - and the separation of mosque and state. The most recent debate, held ahead of the Iraq elections, asked whether that country's neighbors had any desire to see democracy succeed next door.

More here.

This doesn't sound like much, but a freestyle debate show is something that we take for granted in this country (John Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson anyone?). But, it is a rarity in the middle east. I spent some time deployed in Qatar with CENTCOM so I'm curious about what happens there. So far, I've been impressed with what the emir is trying to do in trying to avoid the traps that Saudi Arabia has fallen into. Anything that actually facilitates free speech and open discourse is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Shameless Self-promotion

The link to my WIRED article is up.

Full Spectrum Controversy?

The Saint Petersburg Times is reporting that the Army got "out-gamed" in the development of THQ's "Full Spectrum Warrior", and that the Army is not satified with the end result.

I'm actually playing this game right now, and, as a former infantryman, I've found it to be pretty good. By no means is it a complete simulation of urban combat. But, it does do a pretty good job of teaching squad MOUT tactics outside of buildings...street fighting, if you will. So far, the game hasn't taken me inside the buildings which is another facet of urban warfare that is hard to train. The Rainbow Six games did a pretty good job with that.

The Xbox disk is supposed to have the actual "army" version of the game, but I haven't tried it yet. But, I can see this as a useful tool. There is no substitute for tough, realistic training, but MOUT is hard to train on. There aren't that many MOUT facilities in the Army.

What I find interesting about the article is that it quotes a Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Benning (I presume at the infantry center in Building snore...err...Four). He doesn't seem to think that its a good tool. However, this guy isn't the target audience. He's probably in his forties and, if he's like most infantry LTCs that I've known, doesn't play games. The real target audience for this game is 20 year old squad leaders who have grown up playing games. I wonder what they think.

Remember the Aviation and Armor communities have been using simulators for years, and they get good results. The "net" generation will figure out how to use tools like Full Spectrum Warrior.

Sad Story


Humvee tragedy brings soldiers together
Iraqis persevere to recover dead Americans

By Steve Fainaru

BALAD, Iraq - When the Iraqi troops arrived that morning, three American servicemen lay dead at the bottom of the Isaki Canal.

The body of a fourth, Sgt. Rene Knox Jr., 22, had been recovered from a submerged Humvee. Patrolling without headlights around 4:30 a.m., Knox had overshot a right turn. His vehicle tumbled down a concrete embankment and settled upside down in the frigid water.

During the harrowing day-long mission to recover the bodies of the Humvee's three occupants on Feb. 13, an Air Force firefighter also drowned. Five U.S. soldiers were treated for hypothermia. For five hours, three Navy SEAL divers searched the canal before their tanks ran out of oxygen.


I went to school with Phil Poteet at Texas Tech. I hate to see his name referenced this way. But, there is some hope here. I think we're making progress. If the Iraqi Army soldiers were willing to risk their lives in this way, then that's good news. But, I still hate to see soldiers go out like this.

Task Force Phoenix

The Texas National Guard Task Force in Afghnistan has a site up. Worth a look. Stay safe ya'll.

Afghanistan SITREP

Captain's Quarters has an interesting take on what's going on in AFG.

He's linking from here.

My take: its been all but a given in the media and the liberal blogosphere that the Taliban and AQ have been making some kind of comeback. When I google " resurgent Taliban" I get 6,030 hits. I haven't been buying this at all. We've beaten AQ and the TB.

Personally, I think the tipping point was Summer 2003 when the TB murdered a bunch of clerics in Kandahar (the spiritual center of gravity for the TB) who had issued fatwah's supporting the Karzai gov't. One cleric's family ended up getting brutally murdered. After that point, I think many Afghanis had enough with the TB. (I'll search for some links on this later.) I think the final nail in the coffin was the recent elections in AFG.

The liberal blogosphere ought to be paying more attention to what's really happening in AFG. They've been blinded by their dislike for Bush, and have gotten in the business of wishing for bad results. However, I think we're doing well.

We've still got a long way to go. Opium, warlords, infrastructure, and many other problems still remain. But, the Afghanis are better off than they were on Sept 10, 2001.

I've been thinking about posting of the AFG opium problem. More to follow.

***Note: And by liberal blogosphere, I mean myself as well. My politics are more or less left of center, and I don't really believe in the "liberal media". I believe in the lazy media. AFG just isn't sexy enough to cover so its easier to repeat "resurgent taliban" over and over again than to do some real reporting. The Christian Science Monitor does some good reporting from South Asia. Worth a look.

Monday, February 21, 2005

More on my Article

I'm starting to get some fan mail. Fun.

Thanks to everyone for reading.

And if any of you publishers or literay agents have read the article, don't be shy. My novel needs a home. LOL.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

WIRED magazine

The new issue of WIRED came today, and my article is in it. Wow! I'm pretty happy and excited. The whole experience has been pretty great, and the WIRED staff are all pretty fantastic.

Noah over at defensetech deserves a lot of credit for this. He helped get my idea in front of the right people. Thanks Noah. Owe you a cold Shiner if you're ever in Austin.

I'll post the link to my article when its available.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Update to "Eyes Wide Open in Austin"

I didn't end up having the guts to go see the boot memorial. I don't think I trusted myself to be around any type of protestors. My emotions are still pretty raw over the whole thing. Hell, I didn't see any actual "ground combat", and I still not sure how to feel. I can't imagine how anyone who saw a year of combat would deal with running into the people that I didn't want to deal with.

I don't like the war. But, I don't like the protestors very much either. Like that guy who has the "kill-o-meter" posted in his front yard over by Hyde Park Cafe. (I'll post a pic later) There are people who live in this town who are right now in Iraq and AFG. Their families are still here. How the hell do you explain that so somebody's kid or wife if they see it?

This post doesn't make me feel good about myself

USA Today has a pretty good article about the "self-esteem" generation.

Yep, life'll burst that self-esteem bubble
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Andrea Sobel shudders at those oh-so-positive messages aimed at boosting kids' self-esteem. She has heard her fill of "good job" or "great picture" or any of the highly exaggerated claims that parenting experts and educators spouted as the way to bring up well-adjusted children.

Sobel, the mother of 16-year-old twins in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says they could tell "what was real and what was fake," even when very young. "I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, 'Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments."

Those often-empty phrases, however, raised a generation. Kids born in the '70s and '80s are now coming of age. The colorful ribbons and shiny trophies they earned just for participating made them feel special. But now, in college and the workplace, observers are watching them crumble a bit at the first blush of criticism.

Follow the link for more:

I really see the point in this article. This is something that I've noticed in some of my soldiers. Some of my old NCOs used to call them the "Pepsi Generation". Of course, I'm a GENX slacker so what the hell do I know.

I've always thought that if you felt good about yourself it ought to be because you did something good and not because someone was trying to make you feel good. I had a BN Commander who gave every soldier in a company an AAM for just showing up for AT. I think she did it more because she wanted to feel good about herself than help the soldiers out. When I got my first AAM in the Army, I felt really damn good about it. Actually, I still feel good about it because I busted my ass to deserve it. The award "spam" that I got from my old BN CDR makes my snicker.

I guess the key to being a good leader is identifying who really did a good job and recognizing it. I always liked how at JRTC they had the "Hero of the Battle Award". They'd pull some PFC out from the battalion and put him in front of all the senior NCOs and officers in the BN and talk about how he'd kicked ass. The kid would walk on cloud nine for about a month afterwards. I really believe that its moments like this that make future 1SGs and CSMs.

No matter how bad things are, somebody always does a good job. Its usually the young E-4 or E-5 who keeps on trying and doing his/her job exactly the way they were trained. People always look at the negative, but something always goes right in everything that you do. But, you have to be precise in your praise. I think that's something that the baby-boomers screwed up. It was easier to tell us all that we were special than it was to look hard to what was really special.

As Julie and I embark on this great experiment know as parenthood (we are currently at D-55), I'd like to believe that we'll be the type of people that raise kids who feel good about themselves because they actually accomplish things. I want to teach them how to do things. I'm looking forward to that. That's what I always loved about being on my Grandfather's ranch. There was always something to learn and do.

I guess learning how to fail is one of the most important skills that you can have. I've failed over and over again in life (my whopping 2.9 college GPA being a prime example), and come out okay. I hope my kids learn the same.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eyes Wide Open In Austin

The Eyes Wide Open Memorial ( made its way to Austin this week. It is the memorial that shoes a pair of combat boots for everyone who has died in Iraq. I'm not sure how I feel about this bunch. I have my own mis-givings about Iraq, but I don't like the "peace" crowd very much. I'm an Iraq veteran and Army-proud, and I just don't like the peace at any cost line of thinking. I think we right in Afghanistan, and I think the world probably should have confronted Saddam's Iraq. But, I'm not too sure about the way Iraq is unfolding. The recent elections have given me a little bit of hope though. Some of my soldiers are over there right now, and I hope things improve.

I didn't know the boot memorial was going to be in town until I saw it on the news last night. They were reading the names of the dead, and it looked like a pretty solemn and powerful ceremony...until the bongo players showed up. That's right: bongos. I don't understand what it is about this town and bongos, but it seems like at every festival they show up with their hackey sack and those stupid stick things. I guess that's okay at Eeyore's Birthday (, but perhaps they should be left at home when it comes time to honor the dead.

I'm not sure if this memorial is about honoring the dead though. I think its the same protest from the same protest crowd that shows up for every other thing. These people offer no solutions. How are you going to fix the middle east dreadlock boy? (And I'm just ranting here. I live in Austin because I like it. Dreadlocks and bongos and everything.)

Anyway, I might go down there tonight and check it out, but I'm afraid that I might see or hear something that pisses me off.

First Post

Hello All! Here's my stab at one of those "blog" things. I'll plan on doing new commentary, especially as it relates to the military and homeland security...two things that I guess I have a little expertise on.

I figured that I'd better get of my ass and at least take a stab at blogging seeing as how I have an article coming out in the March WIRED ( about using blogging to do better intelligence. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Anyway, first up on the commentary:

From the Times:

February 16, 2005
A New Model Army Soldier Rolls Closer to the Battlefield

The American military is working on a new generation of soldiers, far different from the army it has.
"They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Joint Forces Command at the Pentagon. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."
The robot soldier is coming.
The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat. Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.

(follow the link for more)

Uh, yeah right. Most of the articles that I've read say that we're years away from AI of this type. Plus, what happens when your robotic infantryman fucks up? Do you press "CRTL" "ALT" "DELETE"? The current generation of UAVs (preds, hunter, etc ) take huge support staff to keep flying, and a highly skilled pilot is always in the loop. The current generation of "robots" on the ground are really just glorified remote control cars....with machineguns. How about we pump some of that money into making better infantrymen instead of a robotic pipe dream. Can you imagine the "Grunt-9000" trying to interact with Iraqi Civilians?

Noah over at defensetech ( has a little to say about it too.

Next up:

Syria and Iran say to build 'common front'